Like any fighter would, Elvin Ayala took some time away from boxing following a devastating loss at the hands of Curtis Stevens in January of 2013. Looking back on it, Ayala should've taken that hiatus long before the bell rang. "Mentally, I just wasn't there," Ayala (26-6-1, 12 KOs) said Tuesday, just four days before his return to the ring Saturday, Jan. 17th, 2015 Mohegan Sun Arena.
The 33-year-old Ayala, a former world-title challenger living and fighting out of New Haven, Conn., appeared on the surface to have everything a contender could ask for -- a loyal manager, promoter, adoring fans, a hard-working training staff and a steady source of income, but as the expectations continued to rise he found himself trapped in a world where he was constantly chasing dollars instead of his dream.
"When I first put those gloves on as a kid, it was my dream to be a world champion," Ayala said, "but as I got deeper and deeper into it, it became about how everyone else wanted it to play out."
More than two years later, Ayala is starting from scratch, training out his home and arranging his own sparring. It's a bare-bones approach to an otherwise serious comeback, but it's allowed Ayala to find inner-peace, where he can focus on the task at hand and block out the unwanted distractions that weighed him down during his previous run.
"Just because people want what's best for you doesn't mean they have your best interests in mind," said Ayala, who will face tough, Philadelphia veteran Taneal Goyco (7-8-1, 3 KOs) in a six-round super middleweight bout on the undercard of CES Boxing's pro-am show.
"I felt I needed to break away from everybody and everything and find myself again. I was trying to live up to everyone's expectations of what I should've been doing, who I should've been fighting. I definitely needed a vacation."
Ayala also needed time to focus on his family. During the time leading up to his fight against Stevens, Ayala's girlfriend was pregnant with what would be his fifth child (he has four daughters now and one son). The time away from home took its toll on their relationship. Now that his son, Lucian, is more than a year old, Ayala can return to boxing without the additional stress and just zero in on his goal, which is to make one more -- and perhaps final -- run at a world championship.
"This is it for me," he said. "I'm putting it all on the line. I feel good. I feel comfortable. This what I want people to remember me by, how I want them to remember my name. This last foundation I'm building here is how I want people to remember me going forward."
This, perhaps, is the real Ayala, fighting for the glory and the thrill of victory, not just for the hefty paycheck. Money is and always will be a priority, but it no longer controls Ayala's decision-making in boxing. With six consecutive wins under his belt since bottoming out in 2010, he took the fight against Stevens in hopes of winning and landing an even bigger payday down the road, knowing what a win over a quality opponent would mean for his career.
Instead, the loss eerily resembled the 2010 knockout he suffered against David Lemieux, which set him back nearly two years before he resurrected his career under the guidance of promoter Jimmy Burchfield Sr.
"I took the loss and said, 'You know what? I'm going to shut it down,' and that's what I did," Ayala said. "I'm training hard and doing what I'm doing in life to make sure this next run can be my last. I'm not doing it for a payday anymore. I'm doing it to be the best, knowing that being the best will one day get me a payday."
Ayala also spent his time away from the ring working in the heating and air conditioning (HVAC), which he says has made him less "desperate" to box and more focused on being the best he can be inside the ring, not just someone's next available opponent. He hopes that difference shows Saturday night in his long-awaited return.
Jan. 17th features nine pro bouts and six amateur fights, including two title bouts on the main card. After fighting to a draw twice in 2014, Hartford, Conn., super featherweight Joseph "Chip" Perez (10-3-2, 3 KOs) will battle Agustine Mauras (6-0-3, 3 KOs) of Lawrence, Mass., in an eight-round bout for the vacant N.E. title while Josh Crespo (3-1-2, 1 KO) of New Haven, Conn., faces Portland, Maine's Jorge Abiague (7-0-1, 1 KO) in an eight-round bout for the vacant N.E. super bantamweight crown.
Courtesy of Jay-Z's Roc Sports Nation, two former Chinese Olympians and a former Chinese international champion also headline the undercard, including southpaw heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (1-0, 1 KO), a silver medalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics; light heavyweight southpaw and 2012 Olympian Meng Fanlong; and Wang Zhimin, who won gold in the 2011 World Series of Boxing.
New Bedford, Mass., lightweight Briam Granado makes his professional debut against Willie Carville (1-0) Khiary Gray-Pitts (3-0, 1 KO) returns to face Jake Constant (0-2) of Springfield, Ill., in a four-round bout. New Haven's Jimmy Williams (7-0-1, 3 KOs) will face 30-fight veteran Jose Felix (11-16-2, 4 KOs) in six-round junior middleweight bout.
For up-to-date information on the Jan. 17th event visit www.cesboxing.com, follow @CESBOXING on Twitter and Instagram and join the CES Boxing fan page on Facebook.
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